A Conversation With Planned Parenthood: Decisions, Decisions (Part 1 of 2)

On Monday, March 13, 2017, Tucker Carlson had on his show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood, Dawn Laguens.

Carlson wanted to know what Ms. Laguens thought about the offer by the White House to preserve the federal government’s funding of Planned Parenthood if they stop providing abortion services. The conversation quickly turned into an 8-minute tussle in which Carlson wanted a direct answer to a very simple question: What does Ms. Laguens, the Executive Vice President of an organization that provides about 300,000 abortions per year, think of a fetal heartbeat? The conversation is long (for a post), but instructive.

Carlson: Why is abortion so important to Planned Parenthood that you are willing to forego a half a billion dollars a year in federal subsidies?
Laguens: Well, I’d like to say first and foremost that Planned Parenthood believes in the wisdom and power of the individual to decide what care is right for them and what doctor they should go to, and no one’s going to bully, threaten, or bribe  Planned Parenthood to not have that view. But one-and-a-half million people are at risk of losing access to cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and birth control because of this plan by Paul Ryan and Donald Trump to take that care away. And, of course, people don’t – they come to Planned Parenthood, and we get reimbursed for providing preventive health care. We don’t get a budget item, line item, and we don’t get a big check. We get reimbursed, like any hospital, for providing a Pap test, or breast cancer screening.
Carlson: But that doesn’t change the question, which is, why include abortion if the services provided are necessary – why not just take that out? It is a controversial thing, a lot of people think it’s murder – why not just take that out and taxpayers can feel good about subsidizing the rest of your services?
Laguens: Well, again, taxpayers don’t pay for abortion services, they help reimburse things like Pap tests and cancer screenings. But women deserve access to the full range of reproductive health care, and that includes safe, legal abortion. And, so, Planned Parenthood is going to let women make the choices they want to make about their care, and go to the doctor they want to go to.
[continues on an unrelated conversation]
Carlson: So, Planned Parenthood does provide an awful lot of abortions every year, I think over 300,000 – I think that’s right, in that range – and the majority of them are after 5 and a half weeks – that’s the point at which the fetal heartbeat can be detected. I’m just wondering, as someone who works there, what do you think of that? What is being aborted? If you can hear the heartbeat, what is that thing that’s being aborted? How do you feel about that?
Laguens: Well, abortion is a right in this country. Women have their own views on whether or not they want to be pregnant. That is not a viable fetus at five and half weeks, anyone knows that. And what you would do is make your own choice – and that’s all Planned Parenthood has ever said – is that everyone should make their own choice.
Carlson: But what do you think?
Laguens: Well, I’ve made my own choices.
Carlson: Right. But what specifically do you think? You work at the country’s biggest abortion provider. If you can hear the heartbeat of this thing, this fetus – what is it? Is it a piece of tissue, or is it a separate human being?
Laguens: I think that’s up to each individual to decide what they believe, but women in this country, one in three women, have an abortion during their lifetime. Obviously, they are making their own choice. And what we’re here to talk about today –
Carlson: – but what do you think?
Laguens: – what we are here to talk about today is that the Pence-Ryan plan will take away health and cancer screenings and birth control for millions of women in this country –
Carlson: OK. You’ve said that, though, and I – hold on – but – hold on, I’m sorry, I’m not going to let you filibuster. You’ve said that, and I – look, I think health screenings are important. I think Planned Parenthood probably does some good work. But the reason it’s a controversial place is that it’s the country’s biggest abortion provider, and you’re one of the people who run it. And so, I just want to know, what you think. If you can hear the fetal heartbeat, and then it’s extinguished, what do you think of that? Is that a big deal or not to you? And if not, why not?
Laguens: Well, I take seriously all of the healthcare work that we provide at Planned Parenthood. I believe in safe, legal abortion, I believe it’s up to each woman and individual, and so I’m not going to make a judgment.
Carlson:  – I know, but what do you thi – what is that thing? Why can’t – no, but why can’t you give me a straight answer? This is at the core of what you do. You’re the biggest abortion provider in the United States. It’s not like you haven’t thought of this. What do you think of that?
Laguens: Well, we’ve thought –
Carlson: – is it something to be concerned about?
Laguens: I would say that it’s a fetus, and so –
Carlson:  But what is a fetus?
Laguens: – I would say that it is up –
Carlson: – Is it a separate entity?
Laguens: – to each woman to decide whether – you and I can differ on this all day, Tucker, and that’s fine –
Carlson: – we’re not even differing, because you’re not telling me what you think. We’re not differing at all –
Laguens: – no, I’ve said that I –
Carlson:  – you’re refusing to say what you think. Is it a separate being or is it a piece of flesh that is part of the woman?
Laguens: What I’m going to say is that 70% of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should be the law of the land.
Carlson: OK.
Laguens: They believe that women should each individually should be able to have their choices about what they want to do in their pregnancy.
Carlson: OK, but one of –
Laguens: And they definitely believe that women are at risk for losing care under the –
Carlson: But, you know, one of the reasons that –
Laguens: – plan that Donald Trump and –
Carlson: OK, I get your talking points, and I’ve let you repeat them a lot –
Laguens: – and Paul Ryan are putting through.
Carlson: – Hold on. With respect, I’ve let you repeat your talking points, which I’ve heard a thousand times, many times. But I want to take it just a level deeper because I think it’s worth it. I think it’s a big deal to a lot of people, and people say, ‘look, this is killing a life, a heart is beating. You can hear it at five and a half weeks.’ And the majority of your abortions take place after five and a half weeks. So, I want to know if that bothers you at all. Does it at all? Do you ever stop and think, ‘Wow, what is happening here? Is a life being taken?’ People say a life is being taken. Do you think that?
Laguens: I personally favor safe, legal abortion in this country, decided on by each individual woman and her doctor, to decide for themselves. I personally do not believe that that is a viable fetus at that point –
Carlson: I’m not saying it’s viable, is it a – of course it’s not viable –
Laguens: – and there are rules under – well, there are rules we follow, Roe v. Wade laid out –
Carlson: Why are you giving me robotic responses? I’m asking you a human question, and I hope you’ll favor me with a human answer. I’m not saying it’s viable. At five and a half weeks it’s not, but you can hear the heartbeat. Is that a human being or not? Is it separate from the mother or not? A different blood type, often a different sex, different DNA. It doesn’t seem like a tumor, or something that is connected to the woman wholly. It’s distinct. What does that mean? I would think you would have thought about it, considering that you provide more of them than anyone. Is that a crazy question?
Laguens: I have thought about it very much for myself, but I am not going to project onto other women what I believe. What I believe is that women have the right and the choice, and we’re going to leave it up to them, and at Planned Parenthood –
Carlson: – Well, you’re not helping them make that choice –
Laguens: – people come for high quality health care.
Carlson: – with your stilted answers.
Laguens: We do.
Carlson: – at all. But you’re not help-
Laguens: – No, we do help them make a choice.
Carlson: If you think it’s a profound choice –
Laguens: – I don’t help them personally make the choice. They get to make it, whether it’s with their minister
Carlson: – So, what –
Laguens: – or their doctor, or their partner, or husband, or –
Carlson: – I – with respect, I know you’re smart, but you’re giving me a series of rehearsed and very childish answers, and it’s disappointing. I would think that you would have grappled with this a little bit. Have you? Do you ever grapple with it? Do you think, ‘wow, this is a profound thing, all these protesters outside holding up signs’ – do you ever pause and say, ‘what are they doing?’. It’s not just about disempowering women. There’s another agenda here, that’s a real agenda. Do you ever think of that?
Laguens: Yeah, I often do look at those protesters, and I do wonder how can they be so heartless to be yelling the things that they do at women in their lives when they know nothing about what’s going on in that woman’s life, they don’t have any idea what service she might be there for, but that doesn’t stop them. So I’m often concerned about the shame and stigma that people [garbled] –
Carlson: OK. But you haven’t thought at all about why people would –
Laguens: – force on women in this country.
Carlson: But why would they want to do that? You haven’t thought about that, have you?
Laguens: I appreciate it, I appreciate it, I do.

[For a conclusion to this conversation, See Part 2]

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